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Texas A&M University

Superfund Research Program

Community Engagement Core

Project Leader: Galen Newman
Co-Investigators: Garett Sansom, Jennifer A. Horney (University of Delaware)
Grant Number: P42ES027704
Funding Period: 2022-2027
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2022-2027)

The residents of communities located along the Galveston Bay/Houston Ship Channel (GB/HSC) region have been shown to have excess risk of exposures to hazardous substances because of various environmental and anthropogenic disasters. In addition to the physical and environmental vulnerabilities, many of the residents of these communities are also socially vulnerable. Community engagement can provide a link between the adaptive capacities of a community — the human, financial, political, and social resources that enable proactive behavior and the combined strength of local plans and policies — and its responses and changes after disasters. An engaged community has greater resilience and is better able to anticipate future threats and prepare for and recover from adverse events. The Texas A&M University Superfund Research Center is focused on development, application, and translation of a comprehensive set of tools and models that will aid in mitigating the human health consequences of exposures to hazardous substances during environmental emergency-related contamination events.

Accordingly, the Community Engagement Core (CEC) develops, tests, and implements a set of data-driven community engagement projects focused on fostering local resilience through disaster research response activities. Work in the CEC is based on locally driven needs and grounded in exposure science and multidisciplinary environmental health research. The CEC is working in close partnership with many local organizations, planners, other stakeholders, and residents. Specifically, the CEC is pursuing four community engagement aims:

  • Engage community members to determine the factors that influence and can improve environmental conditions for communities to proactively plan and manage future environmental risk related to emergency contamination
  • Develop collaborative, participatory-based interventions aimed at reducing exposure during environmental emergencies
  • Develop and implement citizen science tools for community engagement to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances
  • Build long-term resilience in the communities by creating capacity for detection, assessment, and evaluation of the human health concerns from hazardous substances. The activities are aligned with existing, and well-documented, stakeholder priorities and build on prior work done with community partners.

Further, the prevention/intervention activities in the CEC specifically support Superfund’s fourth mandate, which includes “basic biological, chemical, and physical methods to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances” through the development of evidence-based strategies and an emphasis on neighborhood-scaled green infrastructure provisions to increase resilience and mitigate hazard and contamination impacts. The CEC involves community partners in the entire cycle of activities, from study design to data collection, developing resilience strategies, communication of the findings to all stakeholders, and assistance with implementation.

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